EU ambassadors have given the “green light” to Britain’s post-Brexit trade deal to be implemented from January 1.
The move paves the way for the agreement which allows for the continued tariff-free trade with the EU single market to take effect when the current Brexit transition period expires on Thursday.
“EU ambassadors have unanimously approved the provisional application of the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement as of January 1, 2021,” a spokesman for the German presidency said.
It comes as MPs in Britain were preparing to vote on the deal in a special sitting of Parliament called for Wednesday.
It is likely to pass through both Houses, with Labour ordering its MPs to vote for the “thin” treaty because the only other option is a chaotic departure without a trade deal.
The European Parliament must also formally ratify the deal in the new year – although this will now apply retrospectively.
The agreement came as ministers stepped up calls for businesses and individuals to prepare for the new procedures that will apply in just four days’ time, regardless of the agreement.
Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove warned time was “very short” as he acknowledged there were likely to be some “bumpy moments” as the new arrangements came into effect.
He said firms needed to be ready for new customs, while he urged UK citizens to take out comprehensive travel insurance to cover health costs and to check their mobile roaming policies to avoid charges if they were travelling to the EU.
“I think lots of businesses are ready, particularly the larger businesses, some smaller businesses will still want to do a bit more in order to be ready,” he told BBC Breakfast.
“We are there to help them and the advice that we’re giving, and also the money that we’ve invested in making sure that people can be ready for customs procedures, is designed to help.
“I’m sure there will be bumpy moments but we are there in order to try to do everything we can to smooth the path.”